8 murders in Philadelphia

Last week, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was arrested for the murders of eight people. Now, normally if anyone in the country is accused of murdering 8 people (and, in fact, a reading of the grand jury report indicates he is suspected in the murders of untold more, and I do mean untold), that would be big news. This has not been big news. It’s been covered, but not in the way the 24-hour news cycle covers, say, a missing blonde woman.

Gosnell ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia. Karnamaya Mongar, an immigrant from Nepal, died at his hands. That’s one of the murder charges. The rest are for some of the babies he delivered before cutting their spinal cord. The grand jury report is sickening. It tells of a shop of horrors — infant body parts stashed everywhere in the clinic (including the employee lunch refrigerator), unsterilized instruments, flea-ridden cats defecating throughout the facility. Again, a grand jury report this horrific would normally be bigger news.

In it we learn that Gosnell violated most regulations governing abortion. He performed abortions on minors without parental consent. He performed abortions past 24 weeks, sometimes very far past 24 weeks. He fudged the required ultrasounds. He skipped the required consultations. And the regulatory mechanisms in place in Pennsylvania did nothing to stop this. He was investigated a few times and written up for code violations, but nothing happened. A whistleblower went to the Board of Medicine to report Gosnell and nothing happened. One of his victims died of sepsis. He settled for almost a million dollars. The insurance company sent the information to Pennsylvania but nothing happened. There’s reference to other women dying, lawsuits, etc. State health workers inspected the site, took samples, but nothing happened. In the mid-1990s, pro-choice Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, ended regular inspections of abortion clinics, ensuring nothing would happen to Gosnell’s clinic.

One doctor personally complained to the Pennsylvania Department of Health about the spread of venereal disease from the clinic. That doctor used to refer underage girls to him for abortions. Even after that doctor became the head of the city’s health department two years ago, nothing happened. Nearby hospitals that kept treating Gosnell’s victims never did anything to turn him in, even though they knew abortions were taking place weeks after the 24-week cutoff. When the National Abortion Federation rejected Gosnell’s application shortly after the death of Mongar, the evaluator failed to report the clinic (“the worst she had ever inspected”) to anyone in authority. The Grand Jury report concludes:

Bureaucratic inertia is not exactly news. We understand that. But we think this was something more. We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.

What I’ve shared thus far is only through page 18 of a 281-page report.

The story was blogged about a lot last Wednesday. But on Thursday morning, none of the three broadcast networks mentioned it in their broadcasts. The articles I read were very succinct, particularly considering how many barbaric details are included in the grand jury report.

Time, the magazine that looked at Newsweek and said “Hey, let’s be more like them,” put their report on Gosnell in a health blog with the spin that this had nothing to do with abortion and everything to do with poverty.

The New York Times published two stories total about the murders. What’s interesting about the second story is that it focuses almost exclusively on what the clinic was like for women seeking abortions. Considering that seven of the eight murder charges are for infants born there, it’s just interesting that we learn nothing about what it’s like for a baby’s spine to be severed, or to be drowned in a toilet. Other outlets also wrote up women’s stories — all very heartbreaking to read. Here’s the Philly Inquirer and here’s the Associated Press.

In the CNN clip I embedded above, the host introduces the segment by saying that Gosnell is accused of “destroying viable fetuses.” Of course, it’s perfectly legal to destroy viable fetuses, although Gosnell also faces charges of violating laws regarding late-term abortions, too. But killing viable fetuses happens every day in clinics and hospitals around the country. What Gosnell is accused of is killing infants. The term “fetus” simply means an unborn child. But these children that Gosnell is accused of murdering had already been born. Perhaps that slip from the anchor reflects a general unease with covering these deaths, on account of the circumstances of their birth.

Will this be a story that interests the media beyond the first few days? That remains to be seen. The early days suggest otherwise. And in the meantime, the pro-life press seems to be the group figuring out new angles. Here, for instance, are reports about the other clinics in other states that Gosnell and his employees also worked at. We do see other stories about such abortion clinics every once in a while.

Have you seen any particularly good or bad coverage? What do you think about the general approach mainstream outlets have taken with this story?

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  • Deacon Michael D. Harmon

    Part of the problem, I strongly suspect, is that any news report would have to mention the word “murder” very close to the word “abortion.” I can see plenty of choking going on in newsrooms (print and broadcast) when that hit the daily news budget.

  • Jerry

    I REALLY want to know more about why this disgusting, illegal, (expletive deleted), situation was allowed to continue. I’d really like the perps who did nothing to be put in the stocks and shamed publicly. And part of that is for the media to pursue those who did nothing with as much zeal as they’ve shown with other stories.

  • Andrea

    I am very disappointed and upset that there was NO news report about this so far. I believe it is vitally important for everyone to know what happened in this clinic. I know that abortion is a sensitive subject, but this goes far beyond this. I have a 3 months old baby boy myself and just to think about what he did to those innocent babies (and not just one, HUNDREDS!!!) makes me sick. I cannot stop crying. How can anyone be so cruel and cold and even worse think it is ok??? I have no words for this!!!

    And hiding it just allows other doctors to do exactly the same again … and do we want this?

    I strongly hope this story will not be forgotten soon.

  • Dave

    I am staunchly pro-choice but I think a searing white light of publicity should be brought to bear on this doctor and his clinic. I recall a time when pro-choice did some internal policing. I guess I’m betraying my fossil status again.

  • John Pack Lambert

    This is exhibit A of liberal media bias. Exhibit B is the low reporting on the killing of a pro-life activist in Michigan a few years ago combined with headlines that at times called him an “Abortion activist”.

    This guy killed more people than Loughner. Who is it who is not valuing human life equally?

    I am a little surprised that this is not a bigger story. It would give the media a chance to attack a person connected with the Bush administration. Of course it would be an attack line that would not advance the general liberal agenda.

    So much for abortion being “safe and legal”. Of course Dr. Gosnell is by no means the first abortionist to kill multiple women he was performing abortions on or violate rules of hygene or other laws. Still, he is such an egregious example of this, and it has so many cases of total failure to act by the people who have the job of protecting the public from quacks like this guy (maybe he had a degree and license, but he acted like a quack, although that is an insult to quacks everywhere) that one would think there would be lots of stories on this issue.

    Why are white people dieing in Tucson a news item but Nepalese and black people dieing in greater numbers in Philadelphia is entirely ignored? OK, I am not sure this is a racial story, but when Joe Wilson saying “you lie” when he felt President Obama was lieing is made into a racist attack, I am definately not the one who is injecting race into debates, especially when black children are being killed in abortions at such horrendously high rates largely by Planned Parenhood, an organization whose founder wanted to elimate what she saw as the “lower races”.

  • John Pack Lambert

    I would state that CNN seems more like it is trying to redefine the language so that these little babies that were killed are not seen as little babies. Mass murder and nothing is cared.

  • John Pack Lambert

    The Inquierer piece just moved too fast. We get Robyn Reid, a case of what is the ill-legal killing of an unborn child, and they just move on after telling the story. I am still reeling. The “pro-choice” people should be up in arms about Dr. Grosnell’s total disregard for the principal of “my body, my choice”.

    This issue has come up a little, such as in this story http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/michigan-woman-claims-doctor-forced-abortion-stop/story?id=10809114&page=3 , yet we do not see any “pro-choice” advocates denouncing this doctor. It took a whole year for this story to be worth reporting in regular media, a pro-life publication printed this story about a year earlier http://www.lifenews.com/2009/01/01/state-4585/

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Jeff Jacoby–the Boston Globe’s token conservative columnist- had a great column explaining why the liberal media is terrified of–and completely undercovering— the Philly Grand Jury indictments. It seems the Grand Jury pulled no punches, gilded no lillies, etc. in its report. But, instead, used direct, honest, clear language making it hard for the media to use some of its favorite euphemisms
    when reporting on abortion related stories.
    Typical of abortion advocates corrupt use of language, The Grand Jury revealed that Dr. Gosnell called the murder of newborn infants “ensuring fetal demise”(even though an already born infant is NOT a fetus).
    I only saw one small story on the Philly case in Jacoby’s Globe (print edition)on page 6.
    Jacoby had a good analysis of what seem’s to be the media’s attitude and its coverage: “The Grand Jury report came out just days before the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. By the usual newsroom calculus, that should have made the ghastly revelation of this–’a baby charnel house’–the Grand Jury’s term–a huge story. But outside of Philadelphia, it got only muted attention.”

  • mer

    Mr. Lambert,

    If you look in the right places, there are plenty of pro-choice activists denouncing Grosnell’s actions. The pro-choice community aims to make abortions as safe as any medical procedure can possibly be, so that the health of the woman in question is paramount. Besides, whether or not we agree with abortion as a moral action, first term abortions are both safe and legal when done correctly. Please try not to demonize those who disagree with you for the actions of one greedy sociopath.

  • Dan

    The is good reason for the pro-choice mass media to be very uncomfortable about this story. Murder of infants who had been slated for death by abortion exposes the moral bankruptcy of legalized abortion. According to the logic of abortion, you see, the only thing that Dr. Grosnell did wrong was to fail to ensure that the children were killed before exiting the birth canal rather than after, even if the difference between the two is only a few feet and and a few minutes. The problem is not the killing — after all the children were supposed to be killed — but execution of the procedure for killing. It’s really hard to get all too worked up by a the difference of a few minutes and a few feet.

  • Bethany

    Question to GR contributors,

    Sorry if this is explained somewhere and I missed it, but, as journalists, would you in any way be able to give this story more of the coverage it deserves?

  • Passing By

    The safety of abortions was a major selling point for the pro-choice side back in the day, but cases like this leave you wondering how safe these clinics really are, with media cover for them. How many politicians are willing to risk the wrath of the pro-choice forces? Personally, I found this book lacking in verifiable documentation, but it’s raises questions that surely some journalist is willing to consider.